Charlayne Hunter-Gault, internationally-known journalist and former foreign correspondent for NPR and PBS
“Dorothy Gilliam has contributed a rare and important history of the journey of a Black reporter, who is also a woman, focusing on the Washington Post, but which has implications for the entire industry, writ large. Such a book would have always been a great contribution to the canon, but it is even more relevant today as the industry, as well as the society grapples with diversity and the way forward. Dorothy Gilliam provides answers that give us a road map to successfully navigate that way forward.”
TRAILBLAZER is a riveting memoir by the first Black woman reporter at The Washington Post and her fight for media diversity and social justice. Dorothy Butler Gilliam recounts her full, fascinating life—spanning from the 1930s to the present.
With a newspaper writer’s resourcefulness, wit, and skill, this high-octane octogenarian weaves her personal and professional experiences together with six decades of media history witnessed firsthand. She recounts seizing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities never before possible for a “dark-skinned woman.” Having grown up in the segregated South, she fondly describes the black church community that nurtured her self-image, stealing her against childhood and adolescent hardships and preparing her for unimagined ones to come.
As we follow Gilliam’s distinguished sixty-year career, we glimpse how the media has changed. During her coverage of the Civil Rights Movement, even The Washington Post expense account could not get her a hotel room while she was on assignment in Mississippi. Excerpts of her poignant columns chronicle the times when mainstream media first began to cover black culture. We are confidantes to the struggles of a black journalist breaking ground in a white world, while juggling her role as a wife and working mother, coming into her own during the Black Power and Women’s Movements.
Gilliam’s life offers piercing insights into the role of the media in these movements. Having worked for diversity in the media, witnessed immense progress, and also overcome heart-wrenching setbacks, Gilliam gives voice to the change still needed to make the media more inclusive of all Americans.
"Dorothy Butler Gilliam writes with an acute sense of the historical significance of her career and the changes she witnessed, and she forcefully demonstrates the continuing crisis regarding people of color in mainstream journalism. An important document of the struggles (and triumphs) faced by African-American journalists from the 1960s until today."